The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World

by Eric Weiner

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Part travel memoir, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, The Geography of Bliss takes the reader across the globe to investigate not what happiness is, but WHERE it is.

Are people in Switzerland happier because it is the most democratic country in the world? Do citizens of Qatar, awash in petrodollars, find joy in all that cash? Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness? Why is Asheville, North Carolina so damn happy?

In a unique mix of travel, psychology, science and humor, Eric Weiner answers those questions and many others, offering travelers of all moods some interesting new ideas for sunnier destinations and dispositions.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446511070
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 01/03/2008
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 140,824
File size: 526 KB

About the Author

Eric Weiner, an award-winning foreign correspondent for NPR and a former reporter for the New York Times, has written stories from more than three dozen countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and Indonesia. His commentary has appeared in The New Republic, The International Herald Tribune, and The Los Angeles Times, and he writes the popular "How They Do It" column for Slate. He has lived in New Delhi, Jerusalem and Tokyo.

Read an Excerpt

The Geography of Bliss

By Eric Weiner


Copyright © 2007 Eric Weiner
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-446-58026-7


My bags were packed and provisions loaded. I was ready for adventure. And so, on a late summer afternoon, I dragged my reluctant friend Drew off to explore new worlds and, I hoped, find some happiness along the way. I've always believed that happiness is just around the corner. The trick is finding the right corner.

Not long into our journey, Drew grew nervous. He pleaded with me to turn back, but I insisted we press on, propelled by an irresistible curiosity about what lay ahead. Danger? Magic? I needed to know, and to this day I'm convinced I would have reached wherever it was I was trying to reach had the Baltimore County Police not concluded, impulsively I thought at the time, that the shoulder of a major thoroughfare was no place for a couple of five-year-olds.

Some people acquire the travel bug. Others are born with it. My affliction, if that's what it is, went into remission for many years following my aborted expedition with Drew. It resurfaced after college with renewed fury. I desperately wanted to see the world, preferably on someone else's dime. But how? I had no marketable skills, a stunted sense of morality and a gloomy disposition. I decided to become a journalist.

As a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, I traveled to places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Indonesia. Unhappy places. On one level, this made perfect sense. Unconsciously, I was observing the first law of writing: Write about what you know. And so, notebook in hand, tape recorder slung over my shoulder, I roamed the world telling the stories of gloomy, unhappy people. The truth is that unhappy people, living in profoundly unhappy places, make for good stories. They tug at heart strings and inspire pathos.

They can also be a real bummer.

What if, I wondered, I spent a year traveling the globe seeking out not the world's well-trodden trouble spots but, rather, its unheralded happy places? Places that possess, in spades, one or more of the ingredients that we consider essential to the hearty stew of happiness: money, pleasure, spirituality, family, chocolate, among others. Around the world, dozens of what-ifs play themselves out every day. What if you lived in a country that was fabulously wealthy and no one paid taxes? What if you lived in a country where failure is an option? What if you lived in a country so democratic you voted eight times a year? What if you lived in a country where excessive thinking is discouraged? Would you be happy then?

That's exactly what I intended to find out, and the result of this admittedly harebrained experiment is the book you now hold in your hands.

I was born in the Year of the Smiley Face: 1963. That's when a graphic designer from Worcester, Massachusetts named Harvey Ball invented the now ubiquitous yellow grinning graphic. Originally, Ball's creation was designed to cheer up people who worked at, of all places, an insurance company, but it has since become synonymous with the frothy, quintessentially American brand of happiness.

Ball's cheery icon never worked its magic on me. I am not a happy person, never have been. As a child, my favorite Winnie-the-Pooh character was Eeyore.

For most of human history, I would be considered normal. Happiness, in this life, on this Earth, was a prize reserved for the gods and the fortunate few. Today, though, happiness is not only considered possible for anyone to attain, it is expected. Thus I, and millions of others, suffer from the uniquely modern malady that historian Darrin McMahon calls "the unhappiness of not being happy." It is no fun at all.

And so, like many others, I've worked at it. I never met a self-help book I didn't like. My bookshelf is a towering, teetering monument to existential angst, brimming with books informing me that happiness lies deep inside of me. If I'm not happy, they counsel, then I'm not digging deep enough.

This axiom of the self-help industrial complex is so deeply ingrained as to be self-evident. There's only one problem: It's not true. Happiness is not inside of us, but out there. Or, to be more precise, the line between out there and in here is not as sharply defined as we think.

The late Harvard professor Alan Watts, in one of his wonderful lectures on Eastern philosophy, used this analogy: "If I draw a circle, most people, when asked what I have drawn, will say I have drawn a circle or a disc, or a ball. Very few people will say I've drawn a hole in the wall, because most people think of the inside first, rather than thinking of the outside. But actually these two sides go together-you cannot have what is 'in here' unless you have what is 'out there.'"

In other words, where we are is vital to who we are. By "where," I'm speaking not only of our physical environment but also our cultural environment. Culture is the sea we swim in. So pervasive, so all consuming, that we fail to notice its existence until we step out of it. It matters more than we think.

With our words, we subconsciously conflate geography and happiness. We speak of searching for happiness, of finding contentment, as if these were locations in an atlas, actual places that we could visit if only we had the proper map and the right navigational skills. Anyone who has taken a vacation to, say, some Caribbean island and had flash through their mind the uninvited thought "I could be happy here" knows what I mean.

The word lurking just behind the curtain is, of course, that tantalizing, slippery concept known as paradise. It has beguiled us humans for some time now. Plato imagined the Blessed Isles, a place where happiness flowed like the warm Mediterranean waters. Until the 18th century, people believed that Biblical paradise, the Garden of Eden, was a real place. It appeared on maps, located, ironically, at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is now modern-day Iraq.

European explorers prepared for expeditions in search of paradise by learning Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. I set out on my journey, my search for paradise, speaking not Aramaic but another obscure language, the modern liturgy of bliss spoken by the new apostles of the emerging science of happiness. I brush up on terms like "positive affect" and "hedonic adaptation." I carry no Bible, just a few Lonely Planet guides and a conviction that, as Henry Miller said, "One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."

And so, on a typically steamy day in Miami (itself some people's concept of paradise), I pack my bags and depart my home on what I know full well is a fool's errand, every bit as foolish as the one I tried to pull off as a peripatetic five-year-old. As the author Eric Hoffer put it, "The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness." That's okay. I'm already unhappy. I have nothing to lose.


Excerpted from The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner Copyright © 2007 by Eric Weiner . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 126 reviews.
PixieRM More than 1 year ago
Suggested to me in the steam room after mentioning that I had recently returned from living in Switzerland, I bought the book a week later. Not only did I thrill to see that the Swiss contacts were our friends, but I got hooked on wondering what made each country unique and "happy". The research on happiness (and learning that it is a verifiable academic discipline) was a pleasant finding and the reasons different countries self-assessed as "happy" ranged widely. The author's quirks intrude a few too many times; his likes and dislikes made this reader wonder if she might have found more to like about the countries than he did, more willingness to participate and not stand back and judge. It is a light read and a satisfying one, despite the above statement. Iceland was clearly a favorite -- of the author; thus, also of the readers. Friends who had worked in Moldova and learned to love the resiliance of the people would have presented a very different picture of the country than the author did as he rushed to put it behind him.
JadeWant More than 1 year ago
A book club's selection, curious about what might bring about happiness, I was excited to get started reading. Whether where someone lives has an impact on happiness or whether we succumb to wealth’s toys, (monetary), or when we are simply comfortable and adjust to compromise has anything to do with our happiness. Weiner made the journey to ten different countries in the world and spent time in each place. He questions along the way how nature, government, freedom, or restrictions have a bearing on our happiness. I think we have all learned in our own lives that money doesn’t bring happiness. Culture, perfect weather, beautiful surroundings….:if you are an unhappy person inside yourself nothing outside will do it for you. Some are miserable no matter what. Most of those are born that way. Happiness is personal and individual. I enjoyed his rich descriptions and insight into each culture. His discoveries and introspective experiences with the people we are able to share are hilarious.
DarcyBeeKind More than 1 year ago
Eric Weiner, a self-described "grump," hops around the globe in a yearlong search of how people of various countries embody happiness. The Geography of Bliss is a travelogue with an appealing twist - to "search for the happiest places in the world." The reader travels along with Weiner to ten different countries. At each stop in his journey, Weiner provides the reader with entertaining descriptions as he works to understand what makes people of a particular country.happy. Happiness takes on many definitions throughout his travels; however, the author does not always find this bliss during his stops. In fact, the description of his experiences in one country left me feeling downright depressed, until I pulled my head out of the book and readjusted to my beautiful surroundings (I read this book while on a three-month stint in southern Germany - quite a happy place with those Bavarians and their Weissbeir). Weiner organizes The Geography of Bliss with each chapter dedicated to a single country - he visits the Netherlands, Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, India, and his home country of the United States. Your country is not on the list? Please do not let this discourage you from picking up the book! Each chapter is a chance to understand another culture and to explore a different route to your own personal happiness. Weiner notes "Culture is the sea we swim in - so pervasive, so all-consuming, that we fail to notice its existence until we step out of it." You can learn more about how happiness is exemplified within your own culture and countrymen by stepping out of it - all without leaving your favorite reading chair. Fair warning for readers from counties included in this book: These are Weiner's observations of HIS experience, in your country, over a short period of time. This is a grand opportunity to view the chapter on your country as constructive criticism from an outsider looking in, to consider this new perspective on your homeland for all it has to offer. Even though Weiner is an insider to my country - the United States - I agree with many of the seemingly negative points he makes. Even with the increase in material possessions (a constant drive for happiness here), the United States is no happier than in the 1950s when we had much less - an interesting point and something from which to learn. My dear friend, who is Indian, read the chapter on India and disagreed with much of Weiner's observations. We both, however, agreed with the majority of Weiner's notions on Switzerland, having both recently traveled there. Weiner's search for bliss is rewarding and eye-opening. He reveals to the reader some of the peculiarities, the issues, and the assets of the countries visited - making our world a little bit smaller. At the end of his journeys, Weiner sums up his search for happiness with a bit of advice about where to find it - and, as you can guess, it is not found on a map.
missliz More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book. Eric Weiner both cracks me up and intrigues me-- and the reader can most definitely tell what his favorite countries may have been (Bhutan and Iceland) because his writing shines in these chapters. I found it to be well researched and it seems like he really tried to meet with people who would help him to understand each country better. Already loaned the book out. I most definitely recommend it.
Thiscarolina More than 1 year ago
In this book the author takes us along a search for happy places based on resarchers' findings on what countries score higher on happy scales. It is an interesting perspective for an (mostly cranky) American in search for happiness, trying to find the secret to it. It takes us to countries scoring high and one example of a country consistently scoring low. I particularly enjoyed reading about Bhutan and Iceland, both examples of countries scoring high. Sometimes the author seems too narrow in his view of places and cultures, in spite of being a person who has worked and lived outside of the US. The are no big revelations, but it is easy to read and allows you to put in perspective your own happiness and the factors that may be related to it. I would definetively recommend it to my friends not as a part of their spiritual journey, but as a fun book to read this summer.
KalieLyn More than 1 year ago
We all want to know the "secret of happiness" and where we should move to find this "bliss", yet where do we begin? Uprooting his own life for the quest, The Geography of Bliss author, Eric Weiner, takes his readers on an adventure to the happiest - and not so happy - countries of the world. Written with humor, knowledge and unashamed candor, this book is hard to put down. Readers will enjoy the different countries that are featured. For each country, Eric Weiner explores the elements and people of the country, what makes it a happy or unhappy place, and asks its citizens one simple question: "are you happy?". His wit and description of his travels have some similarity to that of Bill Bryson's and yet, Weiner stands out as a travel writer on his own. While one more "unhappy" country could have been explored, the 9 places that were featured are ones that are seldom in other travel stories. It was very interesting to read about Moldova, Qatar and Iceland, along with all of the other countries. The Geography of Bliss is a recommended read. It is funny and thought-provoking and will be a book that you pass on to others.
SuzeJones58 More than 1 year ago
I really liked this's the kind of book that kept me glued to the pages, reading for hours. I would have read it one setting if it weren't for my family! 'Geography' is a guy's rendition of EPL (Eat, Pray, Love...Elizabeth Gilbert},i.e. the search to soothe one's soul MINUS THE DRAMA! It even features the obligatory stay at an ashram in India. Thoroughly enjoyable and permeated with a sense of the wry. I especially enjoyed the visits to those cultures whose happiness seems just beyond the means of ordinary working folks (like me!). Just as enjoyable as the reports on the ordinary happy cultures are the contrasts with other types of cultures. I'm happy I read this book, which means it really must have done its job, considering it is about seeking out bliss. I'm happy to recommend The Geography of Bliss!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book - I found it so thought provoking. Interesting process to figure out where the happiest place on earth might be - and makes you think about what makes people happy and why. I've given it as a gift several times since I read it and everyone loves it. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We read this for a book club. It is hilarous. Especially the rotten shark. I had never heard of it before. I love the insight on happiness for others in places and way I could never imagine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
great book to read on vacation. great for discussion in book clubs. covers an intersting topic of happiness More than 1 year ago
The Geography of Bliss One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World Eric Weiner ISBN: 9780446698894 Hachette, 2008 Reviewed by Debra Gaynor for, 02/09 4 stars What is happiness.. What an odd time for this book to show up in my mail box. Just the night before I had turned off the news in disgust; I was tired of listening to bad things in the world. I even suggested that we need a new network-- GNN, Good News Network. How do you define happiness? Eric Weiner is a self-declared grump. As a foreign correspondent, Weiner has traveled the world. Most of the stories he has covered were rather depressing. In his search for a definition of happiness, he traveled the world to 10 different countries. Happiness is different things to different people. The reader has the privilege of tagging along on as Weiner takes the reader with him on his quest for the Holy Gail, happiness. The Geography of Bliss will bring a smile to your face and maybe give you a different perspective on true happiness.
debs4jc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love to walk in the great out of doors, and while walking I love having a great book playing in my ears. My latest traveling companion is The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner, a book that I appropriately enough started while on vacation. Now back at home, every time I get it ready to listen to while walking I feel like I am on vacation again as I follow the author on his travels around the globe. Eric Weiner is a former correspondant for National Public Radio who is no stranger to traveling to exotic spots around the globe. In this book he attempts to answer the question ¿does where we live actually affect how happy we are?¿ by traveling to those places purported to be the happiest in the world. Thus the book is a travelogue of his journeys, filled with Weiner¿s musings on the nature of happiness and wry comments about the people and places he encounters. For example, when he travels to Switzerland he asks a Swissman why he thinks people in his country are so happy. ¿Have you seen our toilets?¿ the man replies, and goes on to explain that the state of cleanliness in Swiss public restrooms is a great contributor to their happiness. Scenes like this make me laugh aloud while I am listening, prompting any people nearby to ask what has me so amused. I also enjoyed encountering some of the most exotic places in the world through his words, such as Bhutan, Qatar, and Moldova (included for contrast as one of the unhappiest places in the world). I am 99% sure I will never travel to those places, but his descriptions of them gave me a taste of what it must be like to visit these remote locales. Weiner¿s background as a radio announcer also serves him admirably in the professionalism with which he narrates his own words¿and hearing the stories in his own voice adds to the charm of this delightful book. Weiner¿s sense of humor, wry observations and amusing metaphors definitely make this one a worthwhile listen¿especially for those who like to travel or who like to learn about other countries. But be warned¿if it makes you laugh aloud as much as I did you may have some explaining to do to anyone who is around while you are listening to it.
Othemts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a travel book with a mission. Weiner seeks out the happiest places on Earth testing out data from happiness research as well as trying to find his own bliss.Will he find happiness in:Netherlands, land of permissivenessSwitzerland, boring but contentBhutan, where they add up the gross national happinessQatar, does money by happiness?Iceland, where people enjoy how failure encourages their creativityMoldova, the unhappiest nation on EarthThailand, permissiveness without Dutch orderGreat Britain, where a reality tv show works on making Slough happyUnited States, not so happy as it is wealthyWeiner visits all these places, makes some interesting observations, and has fascinating conversations with citizens and expatriates alike. The irksome thing about Weiner is that he tries too hard to be funny and often fails. The book is redeemed though by when he plays it straight and simply reports what he sees, which is often hilarious.A interesting twist on the travel memoir and a good resource if you're wondering where to move - or where not to move - in search of happiness.
BlackSheepDances on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book sat on my shelf a shamefully long time before I decided to read it. I was afraid it was a self-help book, that all important promise on how to be happy. I hate self help books. Either they are painfully obvious or leave you racked with guilt. And apparently, it's a uniquely American trait to constantly analyze if we are happy or not, and constantly question what would make us happier. In either case, I put this one off. I wish I hadn't.This is most definitely NOT a self help book on how to be happy. It's a study of the world's happiest places, by country, and the author, a correspondent for NPR, explores the regions and tries to assess why these places are noted for their happiness (he also visits places that rank low on the happiness scale). He visits, in which must be the coolest job ever, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Qatar, Bhutan, India, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, the UK, and finally the US. He goes out, meets people, explores their culture, and really gets into their real life. He doesn't stay in hotels, he tries to room with people he either knows or friends of friends. I have yet to find other books by this author, but I'm going to look. His style is breezy, sarcastic, and much of his research is backed by studies that he quotes extensively. Lots of insights on what makes people happy, and it's definitely not money. He surmises from his experiences that it is the culture of a locale, the history that the residents exist in, that make their lives happier and more meaningful. Being aware of their place in history, the significance of their architecture and geography, and a pride in their language contributes much towards personal satisfaction (which he explains by the example of Qatar that has money but no culture to speak of). Interaction with each other rather than isolation accounts for much of the happiness they experience (again, so much for my hermit-like theory of happiness!). This is really a must read book, if not for the insights on joy, at least for this man's entertaining writing and wit.One insight that he has is my favorite quote of the book, something he discovered in Switzerland: "Trusting your neighbors is especially important. Simply knowing them can make a real difference in your quality of life. One study found that, of all the factors that affect the crime rate for a given area, the one that made the biggest difference was not the number of police patrols or anything like that but, rather, how many people you know within a fifteen-minute walk of your house."
TerriBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wonder how you get someone to give you money to travel to all these exotic places to try to talk to happy (or not-so-happy) people. I want in on that!The mildly humorous book doesn't tell us anything new. Happiness comes from relationships, not money, weather, intellect, type of government, whatever. But Weiner had a light-hearted approach to what seemed to be an important question for him. It was interesting to get a glimpse of daily life in some remote places. And who knew you could get a PhD in "Happiness Studies." Maybe my next one?
rmckeown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A blurb on the title page describes this book as ¿One Grump¿s Search for the Happiest Places in the World.¿ Doesn¿t sound too exciting, and I admit I had some trepidation, but if ever the warning not to judge a book by its cover should be heeded, this one provides a perfect example. Eric Weiner, a foreign correspondent for NPR, traveled the world visiting places indexed by a Dutch researcher as ¿the happiest places on earth.¿ For control, he visits one country near the bottom of the list. At each place he stopped, he gathered some clues as to what makes those inhabitants feel a certain level of euphoria about their country. One interesting feature of this journey concerns the wide variety of terms he uses to express happiness. Needless to say, he comes to some rather unusual conclusions. For example, Eric must have some personal bias toward chocolate, since it pops up over and over.The delightful style of Weiner¿s (pronounced ¿Whiner¿ he tells us) reminds me of so many detailed stories on NPR, although some of these might be rated PG-13. This wonderful book will make you want to pack up and head off to your idea of a happy place. Also, have your PC warmed up and ready to Google many of the places, food, restaurants, coffee houses, and museums he mentions. One member of our book club said Weiner needed pictures. She then proceeded to pass around a dozen or so images associated with the book. ¿Bliss¿ will give your reading group as much fun as ours had last night. 6 stars out of 5--Jim, 9/24/09
snash on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As befits a nebulous topic like happiness, there are no definitive conclusions in this book. In the end, the author even questions whether happiness is the ultimate goal at all. The book does, however, stimulate thought. As he charges around the world trying various country's version of happiness, he paints a unique picture of a number of countries. In many ways the book is a fascinating travelogue, entertaining and illuminating.
cbertz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Slogged through this book for 4 weeks. The premise of the book - examining the links between happiness and culture - is a good one. I disliked the author dropping quotes about happiness every other paragraph. On the plus side - who knew the people of Bhutan were so happy?
snarkhunt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's good, but there is much j-school style balancing of ideas. That's great in reporting, but this is a subjective travel experience. Makes Bhutan and Thailand sound fascinating, but doesn't dig deep into the violence that sprouts up in Thailand.
Indygirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. - Henry Miller. This was a great journal about a real mans life study of happiness, and all the places he visited to find it, or find the reason behind happiness. I loved hearing about all the different cultures and things that he saw, learned, and experienced. I love the people that he got to know. I will never look at Iceland the same way again...infact I might even want to visit it, but I will not try the "rotten shark" meat when I visit. In the end, I do not know that he found the answer he was looking for...but I think he had fun trying to find it.
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eric Weiner, a correspondent for National Public Radio, does the reading for the audio version of his book describing his yearlong quest to find the world's most blissful places. As a professed ¿whiner¿ who is possibly ¿addicted to being unhappy,¿ he was looking for the secret of what makes people feel good. To that end, he went to various places rated high on sociologists¿ happiness scales, such as the Netherlands, Bhutan, Iceland, and Qatar, visiting nine foreign countries altogether over the course of a year. He ended up back in the United States, which ¿is not as happy as it is wealthy.¿He didn't spend much time in each country, and met only a handful of residents in each, asking them to tell him if they were happy and why. These not very interesting or helpful anecdotes are supplemented by his own mildly amusing but not very helpful observations. His snap judgments about a country after so little time and exposure reminded me of when I went to Europe right after college (one of those twelve countries in twelve days excursions). Afterwards I thought I knew everything there was to know about each country I visited, and was not shy about expounding on my ¿insights.¿ Similar to my behavior back then, Weiner is prone to make over-sweeping generalizations, does not seem to have done much homework on the countries he visits, and thinks that his brief encounters with natives in coffee shops and bars have conferred enlightenment upon him.Unfortunately, I quickly grew tired of hearing not very interesting or amusing commentary about not very well-researched subjects. After one gratuitous misquote of Cole Porter and one egregious mispronunciation (he said hyperbole as if it were pronounced ¿hyper-bowl¿) (an NPR correspondent, no less!), that was it for me.I listened to only half of the disks on this unabridged audiobook. I didn¿t learn about much of anything except my tolerance for banality. Some of the vignettes may be worthy of a few two-minute essay spots on one of NPR¿s shows like ¿All Things Considered.¿ But eleven disks? I had to stop; it was making me too unhappy.
co_coyote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The sub-title of this book is "One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World," which, combined with the banner "The New York Times Bestseller", is normally the kiss of death for a book I want to read. But it was a Christmas gift that was laying on the shelf one day when I really wanted something less serious to read than what I was currently reading. So I picked it up, and had a reasonably hard time putting it down.In truth, it sometimes tries a little too hard for laughs, but it was quite interesting and it had some dynamite quotes in it for a writing project I was working on. I'm a bit of a grump myself, I guess, but I would have liked the book better with a different sub-title.
bragan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The subtitle says it all, really. Journalist and self-described grump Eric Weiner travels the world searching for happiness, or at least investigating how the inhabitants of different cultures quantify their own happiness and what the concept means to them. Among other places, he visits Switzerland, where the inhabitants may or may not be entirely joking when they attribute their happiness to clean public bathrooms; Iceland, where people somehow manage to be happy in the dark; Bhutan, where the government is actively trying to prove that happiness does not reside in material goods; and Qatar, where the attitude seems to be that if money can't buy happiness, they'll just have to rent it. Also the former Soviet republic of Moldova, which, according to sociological research, is the unhappiest place on Earth.It's an entertaining travelogue, written with a lot of humor and a pleasant human touch. Weiner does, admittedly, generalize a lot about the places and cultures he visits, but that's sort of in the nature of the exercise. And his musings, both personal and scientifically based, about the nature of happiness are interesting. If, in the end, his conclusions aren't terribly surprising, they're also not nearly as glib or facile as they might have been, either.
eesti23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up as a freebie at a book fair. There wasn't much choice and this was one of the only books that was in English, didn't feature a focus on improving your sex life and wasn't a biography on someone I have no interest in. At that point, I hadn't even realised it fell into the travel genre. However, no matter the reason behind this book making it into my shopping basket, it was one of the best decisions that I made.From the moment I started this book, following Eric Weiner as he travelled to the Netherlands, Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, India and America all in the search for that elusive term happiness, I couldn't put it down. Quotes and research are comfortably weaved into this story of travel and searching for what makes people happy.Five stars for the writing style alone but equally as well for the content itself. Great book!
justjill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So happy I read this book! Eric Weiner travels to the world's happiest and least happy places to figure out the secret to the good life. Witty, informative and totally reawakened my wanderlust.